No. 293: Caligula rises, NeuLion roars, Israel energizes, and how a Feinstein researcher discovered a new human organ

Play ball: It's Opening Day in 15 Major League stadiums on Thursday, a new record.

Welcome: Howdy and hallelujah, dear readers – it’s March 28 out there, and it is not snowing.

Further proof that spring has sprung: Major League Baseball winds up and delivers its 2018 season tomorrow, the earliest Opening Day in MLB history and the first time all 30 teams open on the same day (everyone last opened on the same day in 1968, when there were only 20 Major League teams).

Mets host the Cardinals at 1:10 p.m. Yanks visit the Blue Jays at 3:37 p.m. Check local listings.

And don’t forget: The Fair Media Council’s 2018 Folio Awards Luncheon, rescheduled by last week’s last-gasp Winter Storm Toby, is Thursday at the Garden City Hotel.

So, who invented the dryer? They wouldn’t appear in most homes for another century, but on March 28, 1797, entrepreneur Nathanial Briggs of New Hampshire patented the washing machine. (The dryer? See below).

Two steps forward, one step back: March 28 is a busy date in U.S. civil rights history. In 1796, Bethel African Methodist Church of Philadelphia – the first U.S.-African church – opened its doors; in 1799, New York State abolished slavery; and in 1804, Ohio legalized its infamous “Black Codes,” creating a registry of black citizens and restricting their movements.

Meltdown flashback: Today is also the anniversary of 1979’s accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pa., still the most significant mishap at a U.S. commercial nuclear power plant (no deaths were reported).

Happy birthday: “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” alpha male Marlin Perkins (1905-1986), “White Shadow” Ken Howard (1944-2016), two-time Academy Award-winner Dianne Wiest (born 1948) and Cheryl James (born 1966), better known as “Salt” of Salt-n-Pepa.

And many more Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga, who turns 32 today.

The emperor often had no clothes: Take a bow, Caligula, who on this date in the year 37 (not a typo) became the third Roman emperor – just four short years before he’d become the first assassinated Roman emperor. Critics noted his uncontrollable sexual appetites, lavish spending on wasteful building projects, enormous ego, regular torment of high-ranking senators, loose relationship with the truth and otherwise poor leadership of the empire.

Nowadays, thankfully, we just have term limits.

That’s Helen Mirren?!? “Caligula,” the 1979 Italian-American erotic historical drama covering (and frequently uncovering) the titular titan’s rise and fall (there’s another joke there, surely), is the only mainstream feature film produced by men’s magazine Penthouse.

Drop some dazzling trivia on us at editor@innovateli.com, or maybe a story comment, hot lead or calendar suggestion. We love chatting.

Which transitions nicely to: Remember what Ed said, in the March 23 newsletter, about developers having a much easier time in Texas than on Long Island? That assessment drew a response from reader Jeffrey Bass, who notes Ed is “absolutely correct” – a problem for Texas, according to JB, who cites “lax and in many instances no zoning or land-use planning” in the Lone Star State.

This leads to “multi-story structures adjacent to residential subdivisions” and “contributed to the massive flooding in Houston,” adds Bass, who’d “rather live and work on Long Island.” Thoughts?

Oh, and: The Excelsior Scholarship program – which provides tuition-free study at SUNY and CUNY colleges for state residents whose families earn less than $110,000 annually – is now accepting applications for the 2018-2019 academic year.

 

BUT FIRST, THIS

Fertilization fund: Attention, Long Island agricultural enterprises – the New York Job Development Authority has launched an Agriculture Loan Fund Program to help agribusiness owners clear some economic hurdles.

The $10 million fund involves eight participating lenders, who will loan between $50,000 and $200,000 to qualified businesses – including food-distribution companies, craft beverage producers, “food hub” members and other agriculture-related, value-adding enterprises – at a maximum interest rate of 8.5 percent. Funds may be directed toward the acquisition and/or improvement of land or structures, the purchasing/leasing of machinery or equipment and other business-development efforts.

The ALFP’s approved lender for Long Island is Jim Conroy, the Upstate New York and Pennsylvania regional president of the New York Business Development Corp. Reach Conroy at (518) 694-8548 or jconroy@nybdc.com, or click the link above for more info.

We hardly NeuLion ye: It’s another big payday for digital broadcaster NeuLion, which has agreed to be acquired by a California-based holding company for $250 million.

The Plainview-based streaming-technology firm, which was launched by Computer Associates cofounder Charles Wang and other CA executives, will be absorbed by Beverly Hills entertainment company William Morris Endeavor in an all-cash deal. Endeavor – which owns Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Professional Bull Riders Association and other pro sports leagues bulking up NeuLion’s programming stable – is paying 84 cents for each outstanding share of NeuLion stock, according to a joint statement from the two companies.

NeuLion, which ranked among Deloitte’s 2016 North American Technology Fast 500, closed on the $41.5 million sale of its DivX assets and IP to a private investors group in February.

 

A few words from our sponsor: EisnerAmper is a leading international accounting, tax and advisory firm serving more than 500 technology and life-science clients. Our dedicated team of more than 125 professionals supports startup companies, emerging growth, IPO-track and publicly traded clients.

 

TOP OF THE SITE

Let’s understand something: A new Memorandum of Understanding between NYSERDA and Israel’s top innovators will help speed advanced clean-energy tech to market.

Risk, reward: Long Island mothers-to-be enduring high-risk pregnancies have a new resource in South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Center for Maternal Fetal Medicine.

Destroy to create: Hempstead and Southampton will each receive $1 million from the Restore New York Communities Initiative to clear space for some mixed-use progress.

A once-in-a-Lifetime drop: At least, they hope so at Garden City’s Lifetime Brands, which suffered a titanic fourth-quarter plunge that doomed the distributor’s FY2017.

 

STUFF WE’RE READING

Ice capades: From Newsday, why the Islanders’ trumpeted return to Nassau County might not be the only professional hockey in Long Island’s future.

Organ origin story: A new human organ? Essentially, say endomicroscopic detectives – including a Feinstein Institute for Medical Research investigator – tracking a secret network of fluid channels lurking in the body.

Sweet deal: A climate-friendly waterfront park on the site of a defunct Domino sugar factory is set to become New York’s next great public space – and a monument to Brooklyn’s manufacturing history.

Home run: Silicon Valley shines, but homelessness in surrounding Santa Clara County is rising fast. Enter Cisco and its Destination: Home program, which will throw $50 million at the problem.

 

RECENT FUNDINGS

+ Visible Alpha, a New York City-based investment research technology firm, received an additional investment from HSBC, following the close of a $38 million round led by Goldman Sachs, Banco Santander, Exane BNP Paribas, Macquarie Group, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo, with additional investments from founding investors Bank of America, Citi, Jefferies, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

+ Opentrons, a NYC-based lab-automation company, closed a $10 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures with participation from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Y Combinator Continuity Fund and former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler.

+ ServiceTitan, a California-based provider of workflow and field-service management software for home-service businesses, raised $62 million in Series C funding led by Battery Ventures.

+ Tela Bio, a Pennsylvania-based surgical reconstruction company focused on development and commercialization of “bioscaffolds” for soft-tissue repair, received $1 million in funding through the ProMedica Innovations Venture Fund.

+ Fly Blade Inc., a NYC-based digitally powered short-distance aviation company, raised $38 million in Series B funding led by Colony NorthStar and Lerer Hippeau, with participation from Airbus Helicopters and LionTree Ventures.

+ Root Insurance, an Ohio-based car insurance company that incorporates individual driving behavior in every quote, closed a $51 million Series C funding round led by Redpoint Ventures.

+ Remesh, a NYC-based software company leveraging artificial intelligence in research applications, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by General Catalyst, with participation from LionBird Ventures, North Coast Angel Fund and Techstars.

+ AgShift, a California-based technology startup building an autonomous food inspection system, raised $2 million in seed funding from Exfinity Ventures.

 

BELOW THE FOLD

Shining example: A Stony Brook University lab team has earned a $150,000 PowerBridge NY grant to improve tech that uses electric fields to dust off solar panels.

Byrd brain: In 1933, four cows became the first ever to visit Antarctica. It was not their idea.

Drying out: As with many inventions, the clothes dryer has more than one origin story. But it’s widely accepted that French tinkerer M. Pochon created the first hand-cranked clothes dryer in 1800, while American inventor J. Ross Moore cranked out the first automatic dryer sometime around 1935 (to help his mom).

Dare we mention: Still no sign of this “free news” we’ve heard about. We’ll keep looking. Meanwhile, please keep supporting the great firms that support Innovate LI, including EisnerAmper (why, yes … that is Steve Kreit’s firm).